Sep 172016
 

It’s that time of year once more, when preparations for fall craft shows are in full swing for crafters everywhere. Although it may feel, especially during the last few weeks before a show takes place, that things aren’t coming together fast enough, preparations for a successful selling event actually begin many months earlier. Unless you are selling at the same venues every year, you’ll have researched different possibilities ahead of time. Registration usually takes place at least six months before a craft show, although it is not unusual for confirmation to arrive as late as a month or two before an event. Meanwhile, you still have to take care of details under the assumption that you will be selling where you have registered.

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This post describes some of the usual tasks involved before, during and after craft shows, once you have registered for an event. Whether you sell at only two craft shows a year—which is typical for me—or as many as half a dozen craft shows or more, you’ll go through these preparations.

  1. Identify your best sellers. When you sell at a craft show, it’s not particularly effective to bring everything you make. That’s sort of like throwing mud up against a wall to see what sticks. To be fair, however, you probably will learn what your best sellers are over time. You may have to fail at a craft show before you can succeed. This also means you may need to sell at the same venue several times, tweaking different factors before you discover what works best for you. What I have learned for myself, for example, is that my crocheted winter accessories outsell my handmade books at craft shows, so obviously that is where I need to focus.

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  1. Design your booth. What I appreciate as a shopper often guides me in setting up my booth as a seller. An attractive display, merchandise that is organized and accessible, and easily visible signage are important to me as a shopper, so those are some of the basics to which I adhere when I set up a booth. Make sure you know ahead of time whether the ambient lighting is appropriate for your items, or whether you will need to supplement it. Don’t assume electricity will be available; research ahead of time and pay for accessibility, if necessary. Be prepared for different table setup configurations, too, unless you have been guaranteed a specific location in advance. Although many venues will rent tables to you, you increase your flexibility when you bring your own tables. I have four-foot, five-foot and six-foot long heavy-duty folding tables that I can set up in various ways. Additionally, design your booth so that your merchandise does not lie entirely flat. The closer you can bring items to eye level, the easier you make it for your customers to shop. This also makes your booth more visually interesting. Don’t be afraid to invest in fixtures; over time that investment will pay off. The same thought applies to attractive table coverings; even if you use table cloths (as I do) instead of fitted coverings, make sure you stick to one color that doesn’t detract from what you sell, and make sure the table covering extends to the floor, especially from the customer’s side.
Blogging Business Artisans friend, Edi Royer, uses fitted black coverings for her tables. She varies the height of merchandise on the table, and has a shelving unit for her laser-etched glassware.

Blogging Business Artisans friend, Edi Royer, uses fitted black coverings for her tables. She varies the height of merchandise on the table, and has a shelving unit for her laser-etched glassware.

  1. Price your merchandise. I cannot state strongly enough how important it is for your items to be clearly marked with prices. Many shoppers will simply move on to the next booth if they have to ask the seller about the price. Absolutely use price tags, consider using removable adhesive labels that don’t leave a residue, and use tent cards. Post clearly whether or not you accept credit cards. Most people bring a limited amount of cash with them and don’t want to spend it in only one booth. Research payment options such as Square, PayPal, or Etsy that use a smart phone to process credit card transactions. (See also this post, My new Square reader finally arrived.)
  1. Have an advertising plan. Sometimes customers are not ready to purchase from you at a craft show. Provide as much information as you can, answering questions and suggesting options. Most importantly, prepare for post event sales by having business cards on hand that provide contact information. Consider having a banner printed for your booth that similarly provides contact information. Vista Print, for examples, prints high-quality banners for under $20 and even provides online design options. If you are doing multiple craft shows, have a stack of handouts available that provides buyers with dates and locations. You can also invite buyers to join your email list; be very clear, however, how this email list will be used. Many people feel that email lists are a source of spam.
I use a banner from Vista Print that I pin to the table covering for my handmade books.

I use a banner from Vista Print that I pin to the table covering for my handmade books.

  1. Arrange for help. Will you need assistance in toting tables, shelves and merchandise to the craft show? Will you need help after the show, when you vacate your selling space? It takes energy to set up selling space, energy you’ll need to use when you chat with potential buyers, so the more help you get with housekeeping tasks, the better you’ll feel overall about the selling experience. It’s nice, too, if you can find a friend or relative to help you sell; you never know when you will have to leave the booth for bathroom or snack breaks, or to take care of other business.
My husband, John, helps me during every craft show with booth set-up, take-down and selling.

My husband, John, helps me during every craft show with booth set-up, take-down and selling.

  1. Plan for the next show. Be situationally aware while you are at a craft show. Listen to your buyers’ conversations, noting suggestions for wished-for items or alterations. Obviously you will not be able to please every person, but you can take note of any patterns in questions or comments. Keep your eyes open for booth display ideas, and take time to chat with other sellers. You never know what selling tips you will pick up. When you get home from a craft show, assess your results. What items sold out? What items were requested that you did not have on hand? What items sold best or least? What items do you need to replace before the next show? Identify what went well, what could be improved, and what steps you can take to make future changes.

You’ll find other tips for craft show preparation in some of my older posts, as follows:

If you are planning to sell at one or more craft shows this fall, what preparation tips can you add to this list?

© 2016 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

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Sep 102016
 

I don’t usually attend fundraising events, but this past week I was invited to attend the Go Red for Women Dinner held at the Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center (otherwise known as the old Vets Auditorium building) in downtown Des Moines. Because my employer sponsored a table for up to 10 women, we were able to represent our company at this event that is dedicated to educating women of all ages about heart health. According to the Heart Foundation, heart disease causes one of every four U.S. deaths, making it the number one cause of death in our country. The dinner I attended was co-sponsored by the American Heart Association, UnityPoint Health-Des Moines, and the Go Red for Women Executive Leadership Team, but it was one of several just like it held at various locations throughout the U.S. Attendees are encouraged to learn about the risks of heart disease and stroke, become acquainted with warning signs, and know their numbers (for blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and body mass index).

GoRed, I learned, is actually an acronym: G – Get your numbers (such as blood pressure, blood glucose levels, cholesterol, and weight). O – Own your lifestyle (by exercising, eating properly, and avoiding stress). R – Raise your voice (to promote heart health awareness). E – Educate your family (about how to eat healthy). D – Donate (to sponsor heart health education and research).

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You’ll see my co-workers and me at our table above. I am in the center of the back row.

Do you know a woman who has heart disease, has suffered a stroke or heart attack, or is at risk? According to the American Heart Association, one in three women will suffer a heart event at some point in their lives. Within my immediate family, which has three women—my deceased mother, my younger sister and me—we fit that profile. My mother had at least one stroke, admitted to heart palpitations, and had a blocked carotid artery for which she underwent surgery. My mother was a slim woman, just five feet and two inches, but she was a heavy smoker most of her life, putting herself at risk for heart disease, lung disease and many other illnesses. When she began smoking in the 1950s, she said no one really talked about the long term effects of this habit. If she were still living today, my guess is that she would be a firm supporter of the Go Red Challenge, focused on encouraging women to develop the American Heart Association’s Life Simple 7 skills to lead healthier lives:

  1. Manage blood pressure. Keep it below 120/80 mm Hg.
  2. Control cholesterol. Keep total cholesterol under 200 mg/dl.
  3. Reduce blood sugar. For non-diabetic adults, keep below 100 mg/dl.
  4. Get active. Work on 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week.
  5. Eat better. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables, limit sodium intake to less than 1,500 mg per day, and limit sugar-sweetened beverages to no more than 450 calories per week.
  6. Lose weight. Your body mass index should be less than 25 kg, although it is also affected by your age. A body mass index assessment tool can be found at MercyHealth at http://www.e-mercy.com/bmi-calculator.aspx.
  7. Stop smoking. As soon as you do, your risk of heart disease and stroke begin dropping.

The American Heart Association has an online assessment tool known as My Life Check where you can assess your own level of cardiac heath, determine your own health needs, commit to a lifestyle that improves your situation, and move closer to your goals. If you haven’t taken a good, hard look at your heart health beyond watching the numbers on your bathroom scale, this confidential assessment tool will provide a great starting point.

Greeting us at the Convention Center were some of the dresses featured at the Go Red for Women® Red Dress Collection 2016, presented by Macy’s to promote heart health. Since 2004, Macy’s has raised more than $55 million to fight heart disease. Iowa women at the Go Red for Women Dinner were encouraged to “Rock the Red” by also dressing in red. If you enjoy watching fashion shows, especially those sponsoring a cause and providing an education, you can see the full presentation at the Go Red for Women 2016 Red Dress Collection. A 30-second snapshot of the collection is shown below.

At the Go Red for Women Dinner, we learned that though women can be at risk for heart disease at any age, 80 percent of the factors that contribute to heart disease are controllable. Among these are stress and life balance. At a breakout session for de-stressing, we discussed how often stress is self-imposed. We set expectations for ourselves, for example, based on how we think others judge us, when in reality they are focused more on themselves. At another breakout session, focused on blending your life with work, we were encouraged to:

  1. Live in day tight compartments. (This refers to living in the moment.)
  2. Cooperate with the inevitable.
  3. Don’t worry about the past.
  4. Rest before you get tired.
  5. Do not imitate others.
  6. Put enthusiasm into your work.
  7. Do the very best you can.
  8. Count your blessings—not your troubles.

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Perhaps most importantly, we learned the warning signs of an impending heart attack or stroke that are common for both men and women. These warnings can be remembered by an acronym, FAST, that represents the following:

  • F – Face: Is it drooping?
  • A – Arms: Can you raise both?
  • S – Speech: Is it slurred or jumbled?
  • T – Time: Call 9-1-1 right away.

The American Heart Association points out that it’s important to take action as soon as you notice heart attack or stroke symptoms. It’s better to call 9-1-1, for example, than to call a spouse, relative or friend, as this can delay treatment. Treatment given within three hours from the onset of symptoms, American Heart Association research shows, has the power to reduce long-term disabilities brought on by stroke. Here are some common signs of a heart attack or stroke, as described by the American Heart Association:

Signs of a heart attack:

  • Chest discomfort—uncomfortable pressure, squeezing or pain in the center of your chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body, such as one or both of your arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach
  • Shortness of breath, with or without chest discomfort
  • Other signs such as breaking out in a cold sweat, or experiencing nausea or lightheadedness

Signs of a stroke:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance, or coordination
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause

You cannot attend an event like the Go Red for Women Dinner without picking up some heart-healthy recipes, so below are a few places where you’ll find recipes that were shared with us:

No matter where you live, you can find activities that promote not only your own heart health, but also the lives of those around you. Consider teaming up with family members, friends or co-workers to participate in an organized walking or running challenge, or organize a walking, jogging, or running plan with a partner. In Des Moines, for example, the Iowa Food & Family Project is sponsoring The Next Step Challenge with Live Healthy Iowa just a few days from now, from September 12 to October 21. For a nominal fee of $10 for each participant, teams of 2-10 Iowans will compete in a Web-based competition, tracking the number of “steps” achieved each week. Each participant will receive a pedometer; weekly email motivational message; unlimited access to recipes, workouts and health information; a personal online tracking page, and a chance to win individual or team incentives and prizes. Sounds fun, doesn’t it?

I’m glad I had a chance to attend the Go Red for Women Dinner. Even if I never attend this event again, I have a better appreciation for heart health today than I did yesterday. Do you know your family’s heart history, especially with regard to the women? What are you doing to improve your own cardiac report card?

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© 2016 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

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Sep 032016
 

This morning as I browsed through unfinished blog posts—yes, I sometimes write multiple posts at one time—I discovered a post I had begun a year ago. Wow, that’s taking procrastination to new limits, I thought to myself. But a year ago at this time, I began juggling a full-time job with writing, crafting, selling handmade goods, and of course leading some semblance of a personal life. Five months later, I was diagnosed with endometrial cancer, underwent surgery, progressed through eight weeks of external and internal radiation treatments, and presently still find myself playing catch-up. Today, I guess, is as good a day as any to return to my half-finished blog post about a new design for an envelope book.

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A year ago a grandmother contacted me to design a custom envelope book for a couple having their first child. She selected soft yellow, gray and ivory papers to cover the envelope pages of the book. I recommended she use dark gray envelopes to contrast with the soft colors, as well as a flexible accordion spine made of kraft-tex™, a durable fabric paper that can be painted, dyed, stamped, stitched, sanded, distressed, washed, ironed, embossed, tumbled in the dryer, and who-knows-what-else. In other words, it’s durable and will hold up well over time. It will also easily support the weight of envelopes filled with photos and other items.

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This isn’t the best photo of the printed papers, as the actual colors are a little deeper than what is shown here. They give you, however, a general impression of softness.

Before I started the project, I mocked up a skeleton of the inside of the book. A prototype like this helps me to anticipate not only what the final project will look like, but also any potential difficulties that might arise. After I made the prototype, for example, I realized that I would prefer a landscape orientation over a portrait one. Having a prototype is also a good way to minimize material waste. I substituted plain white card stock for the spine, as well as for the envelopes. Each page has a half-inch of space between itself and the cover, or between itself and another page. This provides space for embellishments added to the envelopes. Because the spine is flexible, the pages of the book lie flat when you turn them, and the book is not as thick as it would be if you used a hinge-binding system or a hard-cover spine.

Prototype CollageI began the envelope book project with the accordion spine. I cut a rectangle measuring 7-1/4 inches by 10 inches. I saved the leftover kraft-tex™ because scraps are good for many projects, including bookmarks, buttons, die cutting, and many other things. Then I pulled out my score board, and scored the kraft-tex™ at 2 inches, 2-1/2 inches, 3 inches, and every half-inch until I got to the 8-inch mark. Next, I folded the kraft-tex™ like an accordion. You can see the finished piece below, attached to the covers of covers of the book.

It was extremely useful to use Clover Wonder Clips to hold the kraft-tex in place while the glue dried.

It is helpful to use Clover Wonder Clips to hold the kraft-tex™ in place while the glue dries.

Ahead of time, I had sealed white 5-inch x 7-inch envelopes, and cut off one end to form a pocket. I attached a flap to that end, and decorated both pockets and flaps with pre-selected papers.

Pocket and Flap Assembly

When all of the pockets and flaps had been assembled and decorated, I could see the book beginning to take shape.

Pocket Pages

The grandmother had asked me to personalize the pages so they would tell a story, so I attached sentence strips with brads to each page.

Sentence Strips

I also created some journaling cards to which the parents could adhere photos or on which they could write a note.

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The pages had to be prepared for insertion in the book. I attached Scor-tape to each page and inserted the pages, one by one, into the folds of the accordion spine. I also added Scor-tape to the ends of the accordion spine. Finally, I adhered the spine-and-pages unit to the covers. Ahead of time, I covered the outside of the chipboard covers with printed and solid gray papers. I also adhered a ribbon tie to the cover.

Book Assembly

The last step was finishing off the inside of the book (not shown), and decorating the cover.

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The result was a book whose pages accommodate both photos and embellishments without forcing the covers to splay open because of over-filling. The spine is sturdy and will not tear.

Finished Book

One of the fun aspects about this type of book is that you can turn the pages one by one as you would expect them to turn, or you can splay the pages flat (as shown in the bottom photo) like a deck of cards, making all of them visible at once.

This past spring I received a request for a different design: two 19-page envelope albums that would enable parents to celebrate the first 18 years of their children’s lives. The first page represented the child’s time of birth, with the subsequent 18 pages dedicated to the next 18 years, one envelope for each page and year of life. I realized that these albums, like the book shown in the above photos, would need to incorporate a kraft-tex™ accordion spine. No other spine would stand up to the weight of so many decorated pages, envelopes, photos and embellishments. Both albums are shown below.

Harrison's Book

Graeme's Book

In Naked envelope spine, spiral binding or hinge binding system? I asked readers to identify which method of binding they liked best for a thick envelope book. Many folks do prefer a hinge-bound book, which utilizes a hard-cover spine. However, the more pages, photos, journaling cards and embellishments you add to a book of memories, the less flat the cover lies, and the more stress is placed on the spine. Of all the methods with which I have experimented, the kraft-tex™ accordion spine is probably the sturdiest and accommodates best the weight of many pages without falling apart. I, too, like the appearance of a hard-cover spine, but for thick books it is in some ways like an oak tree that doesn’t survive the onslaught of a heavy storm. A book with a kraft-tex™ accordion spine is flexible and strong, and is presently my first choice for books with many pages, photos and embellishments.

You can purchase kraft-tex™, by the way, from C&T Publishing. It sells for $12.95, comes in white, black, natural, chocolate and stone—and I promise you’ll use every inch of the 19-inch by 1-1/2 yard roll. It is also available in 10-yard bolts at $69.95, and you can pre-order the newest product, a 10-sheet, five-color sampler for $16.95. The sheets are 8-1/2 x 11 inches, so you can run them through your inkjet printer.

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If you bind books, what’s your favorite method of binding thick books with lots of pages, photos, journaling cards, and embellishments?

© 2016 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

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